Watersheds and Cities

Integrated watershed management through social participation and long-term vision

The Project

Watersheds and Cities is a project incubation and acceleration model that has operated for over two decades to promote protecting and recovering watersheds that supply water to important cities in Mexico. The project has had the financial and institutional support of the Water Program of the Fundación Gonzalo Río Arronte I.A.P. since 2004 and continues with this essential support in its new phase, which runs from 2022 to 2025.

  • Mapa de ubicación de proyectos de Cuencas y Ciudades

    Watershed and Cities project locations map

  • Jardín de cosecha de agua de lluvia

    Rainwater harvesting garden

  • Evento de comunicación con escuelas primarias

    Communication event with elementary schools


Rapid population growth in Mexico's urban centers leads to a continuous increase in water demand. Along with this dynamic, we have witnessed the accelerated deterioration of ecosystems that provide hydro-environmental services (HES), resulting in a decrease in water quality, poor water supply, and the chronic disconnection between water catchment and infiltration areas and urban areas that benefit from hydrological services. In addition, Mexico's watersheds and cities are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, particularly to extreme hydrometeorological events (storms, hurricanes, and periods of drought).

Against this backdrop, since 2001, Watersheds and Cities has been supporting the development of institutional coordination processes to advance watershed and water management in priority regions, the establishment of pilot models for the conservation of ecosystems and landscapes under a watershed approach, and the design and implementation of long-term financial mechanisms.

In the new phase of the project (2022-2025), Watersheds and Cities will incorporate components to respond to the present and future challenges of climate change and improve the water resilience of cities and their associated watersheds through the implementation of nature-based solutions (NbS) with an adaptation approach, the integration of green and gray infrastructure, leveraging public and private investments, and strengthening the technical, institutional and financial capacities of key local stakeholders.

The lines of work that guide the actions of Watersheds and Cities are:

  1. Promote the development of NbS projects in urban and suburban spaces with a watershed approach.
  2. Strengthen the capacities of key actors and promote the incorporation of climate adaptation and resilience criteria in decision-making.
  3. Promote the participation of civil society to generate solutions through collaborative processes and inter-institutional coordination.
  4. Catalyze public and private investments to expand conservation and adaptation measures to climate change.
  5. Follow up on a learning community for knowledge management and the exchange of experiences to scale good practices.

"Watersheds and Cities: 20 years for the integrated management of watersheds in Mexico". Learn about the contributions and scope of the project in the framework of its twentieth anniversary.



The initiatives comprising Watersheds and Cities have affected around 3.8 million hectares, where people and partner organizations have carried out diagnoses, designed action plans for integrated watershed management, and deployed communication and awareness campaigns to achieve active participation of different sectors and actors. Conservation, restoration, and productive reconversion have been established in more than 141,500 hectares. Compensation schemes have been established to provide hydrological and environmental services on more than 35,000 hectares of this surface.

The field deployment of the projects has opened favorable spaces for the direct participation of communities in the definition of objectives, the development of activities, and other participatory processes of natural resource management. Local initiatives have directly benefited more than 16,000 families from 192 communities through their incorporation into sustainable, productive projects, the installation of various eco-techniques, such as biodigesters, water-saving toilets, and wood-saving stoves, as well as 620 rain collection systems in areas of water scarcity or with wells contaminated by heavy metals.

Watersheds and Cities V, the new stage of the project, seeks to maintain the environmental services of watersheds and improve water resilience in cities, incorporating ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) and NbS approaches.

In 2023, the new knowledge management strategy was consolidated, which will be the basis for improving the systematization of good practices promoted by project partners. In addition, Watersheds and Cities expanded the conservation and restoration areas by an additional 6,500 hectares. In preparation for an extension, local partners participated in preliminary water vulnerability assessments in the cities included in the project.
Learn more about the project:


Donor: Fundación Gonzalo Río Arronte, I.A.P.


  • Cervecería de Colima, S.A.
  • Fomento Económico Mexicano, S.A.B. de C.V.
  • U.S. Forest Service